Nylons and Midriffs: Best of Both Worlds? (July 2, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs
Image credit: comicbook.com

Two weeks have passed, good wrestling fans, and I am still bored. I feel that every week I watch the WWE product, I sink deeper into an abyss of grey. I don’t feel any investment in the women’s storylines, but this is mostly because, as always, WWE is failing to create women’s stories outside of the main event title scenes.

While I suppose it is refreshing to see the likes of Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and Sonya Deville get some airtime, all of their storylines miss the mark in some way.

Although I typically discuss the most recent pay-per-view separately from the weekly TV shows, I am not going to do that this week. Stomping Grounds was fine but mostly uneventful in terms of the women. But the events of the night for the women’s title storylines were continuations of some problematic patterns I’ve seen developing in the last couple of weeks. Let’s get started once again with The Bad.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE.com

Nikki Cross as an accessory. You may recall that when WWE first went with the pairing of Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss, I was intrigued. This was when I believed that their relationship could either evolve into a crazed tag team pairing, or an intense rivalry to get Nikki Cross over. After several weeks of this story playing out, it appears that WWE is hesitant to pull the trigger on either idea. I do not like the way that WWE is using Nikki Cross as a stand-in for Alexa Bliss. It isn’t hard to figure out what’s going on here: Alexa has a history of concussions, and WWE has been extra cautious with her for the last year. They want to use her sparingly, but still involve her in main event storylines.

So what do they need in that situation? A representative, a lackey. Someone to get across Alexa’s heelish, manipulative persona, but also someone who has a gimmick that can be portrayed as gullible enough to do Alexa’s bidding. Enter Nikki Cross.

This storyline hits a wall for me because every segment with Alexa and Nikki feels like it only exists to further their storyline. The women that Nikki and Alexa have been in competition with in the last couple of weeks — Natalya, Naomi, even SmackDown women’s champion Bayley — don’t really have storylines of their own. They are merely plot devices in the pair’s larger story. All of these women have lost to Alexa and/or Nikki, so I am unsure how they benefit from this story as it is unfolding.

But even talking about the dynamic between Nikki and Alexa itself — I’m not sure if their pairing benefits Nikki, either. I do not like how Nikki is characterized as almost a child: a hyperactive being that listens to whomever talks nicely to her and trusts easily. A woman who has reached mental maturity would realize what Alexa is doing, and I feel that the writing of Nikki is making her look naive and unintelligent. Rather than infantile, we could have gone in another direction with Nikki. She could still be unhinged, but also cunning, or intuitive. She could have been more of a loner who doesn’t trust people.

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

But, the storyline has been going on for so long that I feel that WWE may simply continue it out of convenience, and then drop it when they get bored. But for now, it just feels that Nikki, as well as any woman that comes into contact with her and Alexa, are simply pawns in Alexa’s game.

Ember loses again. Taking a step back from that all-consuming storyline is the story between Ember Moon and Sonya Deville, with Mandy Rose as backup. As I predicted, Ember lost her first contest against Sonya. The bullied rarely benefit from feuds like this, and similar to the women I discussed above, it seems that Ember is just being used to further get Sonya and Mandy over. It made zero sense for Ember to lose their first matchup, and it only makes Ember look like a chump.

I don’t understand WWE’s weird tendency to make their female babyfaces look weak. It’s almost as if they can only see women as damsels in distress, and the only way the audience will know that they’re good is if we pity them.

And as a woman, I would just like to say: we don’t need your pity. We need your respect.

The Thorny

Becky loves Seth…but at what cost? As the universe is well-aware by now, Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch are dating. I, for one, was gushing over this news once it first came out. From a fan perspective, the two of them are uber cute together, and the fact that they are both top champions of their divisions makes them almost a fantasy power couple. They almost seem too good to be true.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to myself and WWE fans when the company started to milk their relationship week after week. It began with just a few mentions here and there, then to a Becky run-in at the end of Stomping Grounds to save her man, and then into a full blown mixed tag match involving the both of them at the next pay-per-view. It’s only been about a month since they announced their relationship publicly, but collectively we are already growing tired of the obsessive association of the two, especially when there is really no need for there to be.

We talk about women here in Nylons, so I want to take some time to consider the effect that this is having on Becky. Let’s nuance her situation, both in the ring and out.

As a person, we should obviously be indifferent if not happy for Becky with her decision to be public with her relationship. I would like to believe that her Twitter “announcement” (if you could call it that) was a conscious and autonomous decision of hers. Women should be able to be as free or as private as they wish. And when we consider how many women in WWE, past and present, have acknowledged their partnerships on social media and onscreen, we have annals of evidence that the acknowledgment of the relationship can work, if not benefit both partners. An example that jumps to mind is Matt Hardy and Lita. They dated for several years in an era before social media, but we all figured out after some time that they were actually dating. Their onscreen chemistry was something to marvel, but it almost never ventured into something cartoonish or forced. They intervened in each other’s storylines when it made sense, but otherwise their careers remained for the most part separate from one another after Team Xtreme was no more. (Although you could argue things got dicey with the whole Matt-Lita-Kane storyline…I digress.)

It is entirely possible for a woman to have both a successful singles career and casual acknowledgment that her partner exists. But, of course, WWE is skipping the nuance and going for the heavy-handed “Look! It’s Seth! Becky’s boyfriend!”

Image credit: uproxx.com

For Becky’s gimmick, “The Man,” it feels awkward and uncharacteristic of her to give an “aw shucks” grin when Seth compliments her onscreen. She’s a leather-wearing badass who tries whenever possible to be tough and leave her “weak” emotions at the door. It undermines her gimmick to have her swoon over Seth in any degree, even if that may be Rebecca Quin’s genuine reaction to his presence. WWE is expecting Becky to play both herself and her character, but trying to do this only ruins the mystique that she’s taken so long to perfect. And that’s very unfortunate, especially when you consider tweets like the below:

Image credit: unprettypeony.tumblr.com

A worrisome comment, this casts doubt on how much say Becky has in the portrayal of herself and her relationship in storyline. In a perfect world, a woman would be able to have both her man and her success. It seems, though, that at their first opportunity, WWE chose to reduce their top female star to somebody’s boyfriend in a cheap ploy for ratings. While, yes, women in the past have had the best of both worlds, arguably none have reached the heights that Becky Lynch has. And WWE doesn’t know how to give Becky both worlds in a sensible, non-suffocating way.

Not to mention, why put Seth and Becky’s relationship under such strain! What if they break up? If things continue this way, I would not be surprised if they did.

Queer baiting. On last week’s SmackDown, after Sonya Deville disposed of Ember Moon in embarrassingly quick fashion, she shared a longing stare with her companion Mandy Rose. Sonya caressed some strands of Mandy’s hair while Mandy looked lovingly at her friend. The camera oddly lingered on this wordless exchange between the two, and I, as well as many others, picked up on it.

Fans and wrestling media alike began to speculate if this was a hint toward a potential romance storyline between Mandy and Sonya. I have little faith in WWE to carry a storyline to logical completion, but this is a frightful direction if they choose to go for it.

Sonya Deville is WWE’s first openly gay female wrestler, That’s amazing, and no one can take that away from her. However, with WWE’s track record of homophobic characterizations and storylines dripping with straight panic, this can only end badly. From Billy and Chuck, to Goldust, to Mickie and Trish, to even Sasha and Bayley, WWE doesn’t know what to do with gayness.

But the fact that this segment took place on the last SmackDown of Pride month does not feel coincidental at all. In fact, it felt opportunistic, and a little like queer baiting. Queer baiting is the act of suggesting two characters of the same gender may have romantic feelings for one another to hook queer viewers in, only to never have the two characters actually become a queer pairing. It is essentially a giant tease, a deception to keep gay folks tuning in if only for the mere possibility that something may happen between those characters. This is done, of course, to make money.

More often than not, the queer baiting tactic becomes apparent when, despite queer characterization, writers will put one or both characters in a heterosexual pairing. Sometimes, it will end with one character’s death. But the writers could also simply drop the characterizations altogether and pretend they never happened.

Given the most recent example of Sasha and Bayley, I feel that WWE may go the route of the third option. But in any case — they are absolutely wrong for making a last-minute attempt at banking in on Pride month. I hope this little glance between Mandy and Sonya becomes a figment of my imagination in a couple of weeks. We should accept nothing less than real and explicit gay representation. Anything short of that is a flop.

***

Now that both RAW and SmackDown are under new management, perhaps the women’s storylines will be refreshed. But, to me, it just looks like WWE has simply different straight white men power.

Different flavors of the same product. I crave a new recipe.

Stay legit bossy,

AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Brand New? (June 17, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: WWE.com

I think all WWE fans can agree that the product is stale and stagnant as far as storytelling currently. With exception of the bright humor of the 24/7 title shenanigans, I can find little, if any, positive things happening on RAW and Smackdown at the moment. On paper, the main event and mid-card titles for both men and women are on arguably the most favorable people they could be on, with the likes of Rollins, Kingston, Lynch, Bayley, Balor, Joe, and the IIconics representing their respective divisions.

And yet.

Half of these people don’t feel important to their brands at all, and the other half are often eclipsed by multi-man tag matches or non-title feuds (ahem, Shane McMahon).

For the women, outside of Bayley and Becky being champs, there is nothing good, new, or interesting happening. It is the same recipe, just different day of the week it’s being prepared. In a first for Nylons, I am actually going to skip the Good section here.

Times are bleak, friends.

The Bad
I’ll talk about a singular segment that, in my opinion, highlights the core problem with the way WWE writes its female characters. On the past week’s Smackdown, a backstage segment with Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose seemed to set up a feud amongst the trio. In the clip below, Ember essentially loses it because Sonya knocked her handheld gaming console (Nintendo Switch?) out of her hands. There were nods to Ember’s real-life nerdy inclinations, with mentions of heroes and villains.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAMUfOVUozc&w=560&h=315]

It seems as if this storyline may be going the bullying route, and if that is the case, it would be a disappointing turn for Ember. Remembering the bullying storyline between Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, the bullied character doesn’t exactly benefit from the feud. And given Mandy’s track record, with disrupting the life and marriage of another black woman (Naomi), I don’t exactly have faith that WWE would put over a younger, more subversive black female talent like Ember in the end.

With this probable mishandling of Ember and her gimmick, WWE once again fails one of its performers by misunderstanding gimmicks that bite the mold they are used to. They have the bitchy, condescending white woman down to a near-perfect science. Anything that falls outside of that, especially for women of color, the writers simply don’t know what to do with. And I reiterate, this is why it is important to have diversity in writers’ rooms and higher leadership on any media project.

Image credit: TVinsider.com

As a black woman, I know nerdy black girls like Ember Moon. Heck, to a certain extent, I am one of them! But, for so long, we’ve been fed a certain image of black women, Latinx women, Asian women. That isn’t an accident; it is the working of white supremacy. Many people can only digest women of color if they are a highly specific flavor. People got Ember in NXT because she was allowed the space to explain to us her character, and then back it all up in the ring. Here, on the main roster, she is lost and forced into a very two-dimensional box. Instead of allowing Ember to show her charisma and uniqueness in the ring, we have to see her be picked on as evidence that she is different. It is simply another way to Other her, even if she does come out on top.

In addition, I detest how the trope of the deranged woman applies to any woman who has a slightly out-there gimmick. It works on Nikki Cross — it is even somewhat acceptable with Alicia Fox. But to see it happening, again, with another black woman, is so irksome. “Crazy” is not a stand-in for “eccentric,” and it is possible that women can be aggressive and quirky without being portrayed as unhinged. A man wouldn’t be written to simply scream into the void if someone knocked some of their things down. He would most likely beat the other person’s ass on the spot. Therefore, I want my women written the same way. Human beings, not caricatures.

Also, can we find no better way to set up women’s storylines than to involve catty disagreements? Alexa Bliss’ qualms with Bayley supposedly began because Bayley was mean to her on social media once. Is this a joke? I sound like a broken record, but we would never make this the center of a men’s feud. It is so childish, and I wish with all of my being that people could see women as whole, complicated beings who can handle conflict in sensible ways. It isn’t just inaccurate — it’s insulting to any woman watching to see mean girl antics be the centerpieces of our stories.

The Thorny

Image credit: thechairshot.com

A couple of weeks ago, there was a #1 contender’s match for the Smackdown Women’s championship. Exciting, yes. In a landscape of Kairi Sanes and Ember Moons and Asukas, exciting new matchups were surely right around the corner.

Only in this match, the competitors were Carmella, Charlotte Flair, and Alexa Bliss. And my thought was immediately…of course.

Carmella, to be fair, has had a precarious position in the main event scene since she was called up from NXT. But, because of that, she felt like a decent shot to include in that match. With Charlotte and Alexa, however, there are no excuses. These two have consistently been at the top of the women’s division for the last three years. They’ve never fallen to the back of the line, and if they did, it was because they physically could not wrestle (in Alexa’s case).

We have a field of some of the most talented women on the planet, and WWE thinks, “Yes, let’s continue to push the blonde white women.” Not only that, but the two women with the most championship reigns of all of the women by a long shot. The only woman that comes close in quantity of reigns is Sasha Banks, and look where she is right now. Charlote and Alexa have the most reigns, and some of the longest reigns at the top. I just do not understand why leadership in WWE don’t tire of seeing the same types of women at the top. Well, I do know why, and it’s because of money…and racism. A false sense that women like Alexa and Charlotte are more marketable, and in turn lucrative, and the determination to keep a racial hierarchy in place.

Image credit: wwe.cityblog.ng

Suffice to say, I would be surprised if Bayley came out on top at Stomping Grounds. Perhaps the result of that match will be the launching pad for the next post’s discussion.

***

To you, the reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on where the product is right now with the women. Or even better, where we can throw our support in the wrestling world to amplify promotions that are getting women right. I’ll be imagining that world for WWE, until next time.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Cards on the Table (June 3, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs
Image credit: sportskeeda.com

It’s time to lay it out, friends. This week, we’re taking a step back for once to consider the women’s and larger wrestling scenes at large. Because it would be nearly impossible not to in my opinion, we’ll unpack the implications of AEW as a startup company — what the brand’s existence may mean for some of the women on the roster.

Full disclosure, I was not able to watch Double or Nothing. I didn’t realize the show would not be available for replay on YouTube. So, my consideration of AEW’s women’s division unfortunately won’t include wrestling. Nevertheless, there are still some general thoughts to share.

Let us waste no time!

The Good
I will start off by giving praise to the woman behind the scenes of AEW, a trailblazer in her role: Brandi Rhodes. I came across a post of hers on Instagram in the midst of DoN weekend, and it made me warm to see that she very much acknowledges the unique position she is in as Chief Branding Officer of All Elite Wrestling.

In her own words, she is one of (if not the) first of her kind: a black woman in a notable position of power behind the scenes of a wrestling promotion. Black women, first and foremost, are lucky if they are featured favorably on any wrestling show. To know that someone with a doubly marginalized identity is holding the branding of AEW in their hands is very heartening, and serves as an example of what true inclusion looks like in the rooms where major decisions happen.

In addition, we were given a glimpse of Brandi’s perspective on “colorblindness” in a clip of her husband, Co-Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes, talking to press about AEW’s plan for diversity. Catching general media attention because of a retweet by one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cody explains in the clip that Brandi helped him to see that colorblindness in terms of race ultimately just erases the specific experiences (and thus, racism) that people of color face everyday. This acknowledgement gave me even more confidence that Brandi is genuine and seems to want inclusion for the brand that she will have a part in promoting. So hats off to you, Mrs. Rhodes!

Back on the WWE side, sadly not much to report. However, there were a few glimmers in the darkness. I want to highlight Becky Lynch, for giving the fire in every one of her matches, no matter how (in)significant it may be.

Image credit: WWE.com

Even in tag matches where she gains essentially nothing from winning, it is fascinating to watch how much she tries to put herself and everyone in the match over. Becky has a natural charisma that it appears she can’t turn off, which is obviously ideal in a champion.

I enjoyed, too, the bits that were done this past week between Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans. I have spoken previously about how similar the two are and, as commentary has as well, it looks like WWE is being more overt in having the two work together. The looks that they served together during their tea time — yikes! Such catty girls, and I feel a little ashamed in admitting that I liked it (despite my feelings about both of them). And, seeing the two turn on each other makes for a potentially interesting story, if the writers should decide to continue it. Although it is rare nowadays, it really does pay off when heels turn on other heels. In my opinion, it drives home even more the reason we’re to believe that they’re bad — because they hate everyone, not just good guys. That is what separates two dimensions from three.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE.com

Here is where the so-called “Wild Card Rule” comes into play. We’ve seen now what this looks like for all divisions, and here is the verdict: it is doing the exact opposite of what it supposedly aimed to fix, which was to make things less predictable on weekly TV.

As we’ve seen, the Wild Card Rule is just an excuse to have the same handful of Superstars appear on both brands, rather than creating any variety in who is shuffled into the mix every week. And for the women, it appears the only people we see partake in the rule are Becky and Lacey. Instead of giving new women the opportunity to fight and feud with women they haven’t before, we are getting the same four or five women in matches in different combinations. And yes, while we see women in other match-ups, they still feel very haphazard. The women vying for the main event titles take leaps of storyline development, while everyone else crawls or even stumbles on any stories they may have going.

Ugh. I hope this “rule” doesn’t last for too much longer.

The Thorny
I want to talk here about the hostile work environment that WWE has fostered, that we as fans have come to expect from the company.

As Double or Nothing aired, obviously, social media was abuzz. WWE Superstars were certainly not exempt from this. I saw a good many stars use their Twitter on the day of the event to either express their good luck wishes to those involved, or live-tweet reactions that vaguely alluded to their marking out at the event.

And maybe it was the algorithm of my Twitter feed, but I noticed that a sizable number of these subtweets came from the female Superstars of the roster. We had Sasha Banks who outright named wrestlers as they went out on the card, Peyton Royce cheering on real-life boyfriend Shawn Spears (formerly Tye Dillinger), Bayley expressing excitement at the future of wrestling, and Naomi flat-out saying that she watched the event. In a strange way, this renewed my hope that these women do, in fact, love what they do. They are simply caught in the crosshairs of a company that refuses to let them go, despite giving very few of them real, substantive pushes.

We had fans making comical remarks under each of these tweets saying that WWE would be soon to fire the Superstar in question over their support of the rival product. And isn’t that twisted?

Some have analyzed this situation at face value as a matter of professionalism. Surely someone working for Pepsi wouldn’t allude to Coke being good on a public platform, right? However, it is my opinion that never speaking positively of your competition, or even demeaning their success, is old hat.

I believe the Superstars of today, in line with their generation of Millennials, are more apt to uplift their “competition” because they recognize that doing so will still ultimately uplift the industry in question. There are exceptions to this, obviously. But, we see this happening every day. Athletes paying each other respect in other sports, influencers complimenting the work of another in a similar field, female writers and politicians and entertainers retweeting and promoting others’ work on their own platforms.

Within the practice of feminism, it is held as a belief that women should uplift other women, especially those in disadvantaged positions. The same applies here, and I think many of the aforementioned women (whether they knew it or not) were embodying this during DoN. Watching other people shine shouldn’t ruin your personal shine. In fact, it should help motivate you to shine brighter.

Why, then, is there a legitimate fear that WWE Superstars and the most vulnerable among them (that being women and people of color) could be putting their jobs in jeopardy simply for being a fan of their own sport?

The insidious thing here is that WWE is asking their talent to be complicit in squashing competition, if only by pretending it doesn’t exist. Knowing that there is another viable option outside of WWE for the women in the locker room can push them to be better versions of themselves or seek out the grass on the other side.

GIF credit: tenor.com

WWE currently is not allowing for either, which is likely creating a bubbling, resentful women’s locker room. My dream for the women of WWE is for them to be allowed to love what they do and actually do it every week, without limitations, without pretending, and without complicity in holding women in other promotions down.

We are not free until we are all free.

***

I look forward to the TV deal that AEW has established with TNT, because it means that I can see with my own eyes what this product is about. Although it is months away, that threat of competition for WWE will surely make my eye more critical week to week. Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Checks and Championships (May 22, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs, Works-In-Process

Image credit: forbes.com

I’ll be honest with you all. My interest in the WWE product has dipped drastically since WrestleMania. As we all know, we were heralded into a “new era” several months ago, with promises of new matchups and roster changes sure to revitalize a bland product. We got this for a hot minute but, as expected, things went back more or less to normal. Even the NXT callups don’t feel special anymore, because the stars are simply forced to assimilate to the formula of weekly RAW and Smackdown TV.

Thus, for the women’s division, I will discuss what this return to boredom has looked like in the last couple of weeks. But, we’ll also talk about the few seeds planted that have the potential to flourish into fruitful gardens — that is, if WWE nurtures them.

Let’s take a look at both Money in the Bank, and what has been happening on the weekly shows generally.

The Good
RAW and SD Live: I see potential in some of the relationships that are forming between paired female Superstars. There’s the ongoing tension between Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose that continues to play out with little snippets of dissension, but we now have an added layer: the idea that Sonya is carrying Mandy, rather than holding her back. I am intrigued to see where this goes, especially if it leads to a push for Sonya, who is arguably the more talented of the two in the ring. In the story, we’ve seen that Sonya also puts her own aspirations aside in favor of getting Mandy ahead, like when she simply conceded a place in the MITB ladder match to Mandy. In this very small backstage segment, we are now led to believe that there is a power dynamic in place between Mandy and Sonya that logically should lead the underdog in the situation to stand down to her domineering friend.

In addition, we have the odd couple of Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. I’m not sure what this will evolve into, but I’m into it! In their own ways, they both have an unhinged aura about them, although Alexa is more calculating in her ways. This could lead to an interesting story of manipulation on Alexa’s part, or it could evolve into a weird business relationship of sorts, where Alexa has Nikki do her bidding for her (as her in-ring status is still uncertain). Or, they could feud. We just don’t know! But curious pairings like this can definitely lead to memorable storylines.

MITB: The women’s MITB ladder match was excellent! Firstly, I loved Nikki Cross as Alexa Bliss’ replacement in the match. Partly because I will always favor new faces over old ones, but also because she added a factor of unpredictability within the dynamic of the match. There were admittedly some weird parts, like Carmella’s knee injury (it was difficult to tell if it was planned or not, given Mandy Rose’s reactions). But on the whole, I loved every woman in this match and what they added. From Naomi’s creative evasion of certain attacks because of her flexibility and athleticism (still dying over that horizontal splits spot!), to Dana Brooke’s sheer desperation to win, to Sonya Deville carrying Mandy Rose up a freaking ladder — it was all chef’s kiss. Spot of the match goes to Ember Moon, for executing an Eclipse from outside the ring from a ladder to Natalya.

GIF credit: helluvaclash.tumblr.com

Every year as I watch the women’s MITB, I smile. I am filled with joy at how much better the women get at these stipulation matches with each successive year. I will not lie — the men’s matches are still generally better than many of the women’s efforts. However, that gap is closing. Quickly. I love to see it.

Image credit: forbes.com

And also, Bayley! I am SO happy for her, after such inconsistent and arguably disrespectful booking since she was called up from NXT. It seems as if now WWE is more ready to pull the trigger on building her as a top babyface for the women’s division, and fans are starting to cheer her again. We are ready for Bayley. My hope is that this time around, things are different.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: As I mentioned earlier, WWE has returned to their standard formula of booking for the most part. This includes the women and chucking them into single segments every week, mostly on RAW. Women who have nothing to do with one another, who have no chemistry, are being put into one giant segment labeled “The Women!” because WWE doesn’t know what to do with any of them individually. This plays out week-to-week with few longterm plans. The problem with WWE for the last couple of years, but far longer for the women specifically, is each of their segments play out like those plays you did in high school. Everyone comes out and talks when it’s their turn, and hits their marks and says their signature lines, and once everyone has said their stuff, the musical number begins. Er, the match in this case. It just feels over-scripted.

Image credit: WWE.com

Everyone is just sort of there because they were told to be. Most of the women sound like they are acting as an interpretation of themselves (that coming from the writing team) rather than their actual selves as they understand their characters to be. The element of freedom is missing.

Not only this, because of all of the multi-woman matches, WWE has become so accustomed to seeing the women as a monolith that they actually struggle to send women out to compete in matches alone. Few women are afforded the luxury nowadays to simply walk out to the ring on their own, without someone in their corner or interrupting their loss or victory at the end of a match. Too many women are in pairs that are not long-term tag teams, but rather arbitrary attachments, something to “do” until writers can figure out stories for one or both of them. I miss the days when women were singular beings, able to stand alone and that be enough. I’m not sure why it isn’t anymore.

MITB: Luckily, I don’t have too much to report as “bad” from Sunday, but there are a couple of contentious points I think we should consider moving forward.

First is that while I am overjoyed for Bayley, many fans have pointed out that the briefcase win may have been better served to newer faces, such as Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, or even Dana Brooke.

Image credit: womenofwwesource.turmblr.com

Whereas Bayley likely could have recovered from a loss at MITB, many of the women in that match will not, and will slide back down the card. It appears that WWE now uses the MITB briefcase as a plot device rather than a means to put over newer talent into the main event scene, as it used to be. So in this way, Bayley’s win was bittersweet.

Second is the fact that Charlotte won…again. I obviously see why she needed to win, in order to pass the title between Becky and Bayley while keeping both of the aforementioned women over with the fans. But it’s still annoying that Charlotte is racking up title wins for essentially no other reason than to make the babyfaces that eventually beat her look more triumphant. I am of the mind that each title win should be earned within the context of a storyline, and with Charlotte it seems so often that she is the de facto champion when the writers have nowhere else to go. Could we not use another heel woman in her place some of the time? We’re now stuck with the reality that Charlotte is a 9-time champion, which is just an unfathomable amount of reigns in such a short period of time. And that’s not even counting her Divas title reign.

The Thorny

Image credit: picbear.org

And with my discussion of stuffing the women in one segment and calling it a night, I must mention one of the more insidious effects that this is having on a particular division. You may remember that the IIconics won the women’s tag team championships at WresteMania. You may struggle to remember a time where they’ve defended these titles against legitimate opponents in the nearly two months they’ve been the champions. And therein lies the problem.

People are still giving Sasha Banks (less so Bayley, as she’s now being cheered) such crap for complaining about losing the titles. Given how the belts have been treated since then, I’d like to hear the perspectives of those that still justify hating on Sasha for taking a stand. The IIconics were simply not ready to be champions. Not because they are not talented. Not because they don’t have potential. But because WWE is not ready to put forth the effort to make their title reign work.

They are taking pins left and right to women that aren’t even in tag teams. They are fed to women’s championship contenders. And for what? What is the reason? Why did we give them the titles? My hypothesis is this: WWE knew they had their hands full with Sasha and Bayley as champs. They knew that those women had plans for those titles, ideas, passion, and clout. They wanted to make those titles feel important, to the women’s division and WWE as a whole. WWE, put simply, didn’t have time for that. They put the belts on the IIconics because it was a sign marked “Exit” for them. It was an excuse for them to not try as hard, since the IIconics are not as established as performers in the political sense but also in the ring. If they were booked the way that they are now, WWE knew they wouldn’t put up a fuss.

Which brings us back to why this whole situation is still bogus: women, especially women of color, are penalized for demanding more. For reaching for more. Because WWE is lazy, and the women are expendable. And as long as that is their ideology, the division will never prosper the way the men’s does. And it is unfortunate to think that they might actually prefer it that way.

***

Now that the women’s championships are spread evenly across both brands, we should see some new feuds. Should. But we shall see.

Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,

AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Fastlane, or Roadblock? (March 11, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

Life comes at you fast, wrestling fans, hence why we are less than one month away from the show of shows, WrestleMania. As Fastlane was last night, and it’s been a few weeks since we’ve discussed what’s been going on with the women, I think we should just dive right in. Lord knows we have a Marie Kondo-sized mess to sort through. Let’s see what sparked joy in the last three weeks, and what we’re hoping to leave in the discard pile.

The Good(?)
RAW and SD Live: Up until about two hours before writing this, I had decided that I would add the main event feud of Becky Lynch/Ronda Rousey/Charlotte Flair into this section. But, upon thinking about all the developments of the past seven days more critically, I began to question that assessment. On the whole, I do believe that the feud is still good, but boy howdy did we take the most convoluted path to get where we are now.

In the last three weeks alone, we had Becky getting suspended, then violating that suspension twice, the second instance landing herself in “jail.” Meanwhile we had Ronda relinquishing the women’s title, only to be given it back (by a suspiciously willing Stephanie McMahon) before turning heel…maybe?

Image credit: indianexpress.com

And then in the midst of all that, there was Charlotte, arrogantly watching over it all, picking her spots to speak and pounce on her prey. I held out hope in my previous post that the storyline wasn’t going to become over-complicated, but I was unfortunately wrong.

Nevertheless, I think the feud is still on its way to the main event of WrestleMania. What I like about it is that for better or worse, I can’t predict where the story is going. That is rare nowadays in WWE, where we can often see a feud made up of nothing more than back-and-forth matches with 50/50 booking.

I find myself wanting to watch or at the very least keep up with the developments of this particular story, especially as it pertains to real-life events. For example, in the Twitter-beef Heard ‘Round the World, Becky and Ronda went toe-to-toe, blurring the lines of kayfabe and reality. Ronda rubbed much of the WWE Universe the wrong way by calling out things like “scripts” and Becky’s real name. In addition, she called Becky’s finisher, the very finisher she sold months prior, a “fake” move. Whether she was intending to or not, she effectively turned herself heel on social media, forcing WWE to incorporate that attitude into the storyline.

All in all, the feud demands attention, which is the smell of a good WrestleMania feud. It is exciting all the more to see women demand that attention, in and out of kayfabe.

Fastlane: Similarly to my thoughts on RAW and Smackdown Live, I have mixed emotions about the events of last night’s pay-per-view. Nothing really stuck out as amazing to me on the show, as the outcomes for the women’s bouts were largely predictable. The build and execution of Fastlane truly felt more like filler to get to WrestleMania, which is ironically the opposite of what WWE likely intended.

However, I can take two positives out of the show. The first is that all of the right women won their matches and will now advance to WrestleMania. Now that I think about it though, all of them were faces, which usually means that not all of them will win at WrestleMania. But, that’s only sad if you’re fans of all of those women like I am.

Second is that I really like the use of Beth Phoenix as a guest commentator for the big women’s matches on pay-per-views. It adds a tenderness to the matches emotionally for fans of Beth in her prime, but also a female in-ring perspective that women’s matches usually lack. Plus, it’s awesome to hear an equal ratio of female to male voices calling the action, something unthinkable during the era of wrestling I grew up in. Women’s voices didn’t have authority back then. Little by little, they are gaining it now.

Not only that, but it was intriguing to see Beth play a role in the story after the match. I popped internally when she threw that punch to Tamina! Natalya coming to her rescue got me thinking about the possibility of Beth coming out of retirement to team with her BFF at WRestleMania for the titles. While this could have been a one-off for Beth, it would certainly be a ticket-seller to have her on the marquee of a monumental match at Mania.

The Bad

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

RAW and SD Live: On the flipside, a frustrating side effect of the RAW women’s title feud is that it is sucking the life out of the division on both brands. That story is thriving in color, while the rest of the division is muted in black and white. It goes back to one of the most consistent critiques I’ve had about WWE and its treatment of female performers, which is that they have tunnel vision. More than one feud can’t matter at a time, and the success of those “chosen” women at a given moment is almost always at the detriment of all others.

Sasha Banks and Bayley are the new women’s tag champs, but they were simply thrown into a feud with two of the blandest performers on the roster for Fastlane, Nia Jax and Tamina. Alexa Bliss, despite my many qualms about her past successes, is being wasted in talk show segments each week. She’s still thirsting after the likes of EC3 and Finn Balor after being cleared to wrestle. Carmella has been jiving next to R-Truth since the Mixed Match Challenge, even before all of the Corey Graves drama came out.

And then, there’s Asuka. Poor, forgotten, Asuka.

The Smackdown women’s champion was absent from WWE TV for nearly a month after the Royal Rumble. I’d hoped that this was done temporarily for WWE to create a WrestleMania storyline for her, or to buy some time to build up a worthy next opponent for the champion. But alas, neither of those things were happening. She returned to wrestle in a match against Mandy Rose, where she foolishly lost, and then out of thin air was placed into a match with Mandy at Fastlane.

Besides the fact that Mandy’s gimmick and current push are highly problematic (we’ll get to that in the next section), she also has not been given the opportunity to prove her in-ring prowess at the same level that someone like Asuka has. And when you’re feuding with Asuka, you need a strong track record to back up your talk. I hope that Mandy versus Asuka isn’t the WrestleMania feud for the Smackdown women’s title, but I have a sinking feeling that it might just be.

I can only feel bad for the women not named Becky or Ronda or Charlotte at the moment, because they aren’t being valued at their full potential. WWE is wasting the majority of the women on their roster in the build to what will admittedly be a tear-jerking moment at Mania. I suppose it is our job as fans (and mine as a writer) to account for the whole of the story, not just the flashy headlines. We must read between the lines and see through the bullshit. Who fades to the background when stars are born?

Fastlane: The wrestling last night was unimpressive. The Smackdown women’s title match was obviously the most competitive, and Asuka had a good showing. But the tag title match was a little frenzied, certainly sloppy at points. I can applaud Sasha Banks and Bayley trying hard to sell their tag team dynamic. We got to see them expand on their tag team moveset in their match; it will be exciting to see how they continue to develop their arsenal.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

The match between Charlotte and Becky, though….has me scratching my head. I didn’t really understand the point of it. I understand from a storyline perspective why it needed to happen, but going back to what I touched on above, it was making a simple story more complicated than it needed to be.

I don’t like the injury angle for Becky. It doesn’t fit her character, and there should be more effective ways for the writers to gamer sympathy for Becky other than making her an underdog. The classic underdog in WWE is someone who we should feel sorry for because they have a distinct, physical disadvantage compared to their opponents. Or, they have a losing streak behind them, finding it difficult to land victories when needed. Neither of those things fits Becky’s character. Other wrestlers have had kayfabe injuries that they worked through to overcome odds, but it seems unique to this story that it has played so heavily into the proceedings. I almost feel as if Becky’s knee is the fourth person in the feud!

Image credit: WWE.com

Becky is more of a cunning, badass heel. It would make more sense for her to be feigning this injury to get in the heads of her opponents. Or to acknowledge it but not favor it so heavily. But instead, the knee has perhaps unintentionally made Becky look weak. And I don’t think that should be the angle for her going into Mania.

Furthermore, I hate how Ronda continually factors into such important match decisions. There was her debut at the Royal Rumble 2018 (albeit a post-match appearance, it still overshadowed Asuka’s victory), her run-in at TLC in December, and now the match between Becky and Charlotte last night. She single-handedly got Becky into the RAW women’s title match with her interference, which again made Becky look weak, like she couldn’t fight her own battles. We can expect Ronda to get involved nearly anytime something big is going down in the ring concerning her adversaries, and it’s getting a bit annoying and predictable. Sometimes, WWE, less is more.

The Thorny
A huge thorn in my side since before the Royal Rumble has been Mandy Rose (no pun intended). I absolutely hate the way that she has been pushed in the last two or so months. She was randomly put in a feud with Naomi, who is a former women’s champion and WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal winner. The pairing of them on paper is fine, inoffensive. But, the way the story developed between the two was heavily biased toward Mandy, who, remember, was supposed to be the heel. She tried at various points to put a wedge in Naomi’s real-life marriage to Jimmy Uso, doing so by playing into jezebel stereotypes common in the era of yore.

Yet, in nearly every segment with Naomi, Mandy came out on top. In key moments of the “feud,” — the hotel room brawl, the Royal Rumble, even the match last week on Smackdown — moments where the babyface usually gains their momentum back, Naomi was the one left reeling.

The reasoning that Mandy gave for hating on Naomi was that “she’ll never look like me.” My ears immediately perked up at this because of how jarring a reason it seemed when I heard it. I considered that perhaps the line just fit with her Playboy modelesque gimmick.

Image credit: wrestling-edge.com

But, when facing off with Asuka, Mandy repeated the same line again. To another woman of color. That she would again promptly defeat in a throwaway match. Seeing this play out with Asuka as it had with Naomi before made it clear to me and many fans of color that this is dog-whistle racism at its finest.

In Vince McMahon’s world, the pretty, sexed up, blonde white woman will obviously defeat the Japanese woman speaking in broken English and the dark-skinned black woman. It is moments like these where I wonder who is present in the writer’s room where these decisions are being made. Who is present in the Room Where It Happens that writers scripted that line for Mandy, pitched her saying it to only women of color, and thought that it wouldn’t sound offensive in any way?

This is why it is important to have representation not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well. Women of color have been mocked, discriminated against, and made into minstrel in both the past and present based on the very notion that they would “never look like” the standard of beauty in America, the blonde white woman. It is a disrespectful reminder to Asuka, Naomi, and women of color watching that we are not the standard. There’s a reason that this gimmick can only work for someone who looks like Mandy, rather than someone that looks like Naomi. You will never hear Corey Graves fawn over Asuka the way that he does Mandy. And while Mandy did lose to Asuka in the end, her characterization was gross and unnecessary in the lead-up to the match. In 2019, cheap and lazy writing like this should no longer be acceptable. Do better.

***

Seeing the promo during Fastlane that WrestleMania is only 28 (now 27) days away made me laugh out loud because of how absurd that is. The first quarter of any year is truly a blur that doesn’t feel real.

I guess for me, the year really begins in April, and I am only a little ashamed to admit that this is partly due to it being the essential end and new beginning of the wrestling year. We’re almost there, friends!

Stay legit bossy,

AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Between a Chamber and a Hard Place (February 18, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: thesouthafrican.com

The first stop on the Road to WrestleMania is behind us, and as expected, we’re left with more questions than answers leading up to the show of shows.

In this post, I will revisit how the women’s division has developed thus far this year, as well as run down the hills and valleys of last night’s pay-per-view, Elimination Chamber. But before I do, I did want to flesh out the main event segment of last week’s RAW. You know the one…

Mr. McMahon suspends Becky Lynch, inserts Charlotte Flair into the RAW women’s title match at WrestleMania

Image credit: sobrosnetwork.com

This segment incited a strong response from fans, as I’m sure WWE intended. I had three main thoughts about the angle.

First, I do not like the involvement of authority figures in this storyline. I am a fan that prefers authority figures that take a hands-off approach to their weekly television shows; I find it overbearing when they become integral storytelling devices in feuds consistently. The McMahons, unfortunately, tend to become this whenever they are a part of a feud, often times inserting themselves as characters into the story. So, especially in a feud so organically hot as this one between Ronda and Becky (and now Charlotte), I felt that the McMahons having a hand in the direction of the feud onscreen was unnecessary. These women are more than talented enough to carry the story; there’s no need for hand-holding.

However, I do understand that they have time to fill between now and WrestleMania, and using the McMahons to drag the story out a bit may just be filler in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, despite my preference to keep authoritative interference to a minimum, I see why it needed to be done.

Second, while inserting Charlotte into the mix in this way was more than ham-fisted, she is going to give the match what it desperately needed: a definitive heel. WWE was never going to turn Ronda heel, even if she would have been the de facto heel against Becky in a singles match. Instead, WWE needed an obvious, detestable bad girl that fans would gladly boo more than Ronda, and that woman is Charlotte Flair. It is commonly agreed across all storytelling mediums that the truest heroes are created in contrast to compelling, dastardly villains. Charlotte can be the villainous foil to both Ronda and Becky seamlessly. Particularly by introducing her into the match as the boss’ “chosen one” — which is how many fans see her anyway, myself included to an extent — fans will be eager to see her defeated at WrestleMania. And perhaps above all else, Charlotte is simply a fantastic heel, in my opinion one of the best in the company. I am glad that WWE remembered this in the buildup to Mania, rather than trying to turn Charlotte into a sympathetic babyface as they did for much of last year.

Lastly, as much as I grimace to say it, Charlotte deserves this spot. She truly is one of the greatest performers the company has ever seen, gender be damned. When you’re thinking of having women main event your biggest show for the first time, you call in the big guns, and that is Charlotte. She is reliable and can deliver the work rate required to make the match a classic. Plus, there is the added bonus that she has worked with both Ronda and Becky previously. She is the common denominator for both women, and therefore can reliably make both of them look like stars. All in all, adding Charlotte to the mix guarantees, at least on paper, that this main event will be a solid one.

Now that I’ve exhausted that segment, let’s take a look at how the rest of the women are getting on.

The Good
RAW and Smackdown Live: The best thing happening on weekly TV for the women is that they feel important. Slowly, they are being included in more segments, and those segments feel less like throwaway bits of filler. With the addition of the women’s tag titles, I am seeing the division come to life before my very eyes. I am elated that finally the women who have been stuck in the mid-card have something to fight for. While some tag teams we’ve seen were thrown together, I think the possibilities for female partnerships will outshine this rocky start to the tag division. Let’s not forget that every member of The New Day were at one time singles wrestlers who had no direction. The women will be just fine.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Specifically with Becky Lynch, it is more apparent than ever that she is seen as a top star in the company. She has started and ended both RAW and Smackdown to a chorus of cheers every time. While 2018 was The Man’s christening, 2019 is the year that WWE has started to live up the moniker. She’s given the Seth Rollins treatment, the Daniel Bryan treatment, the AJ Styles treatment. She’s carving her own space into today’s Mount Rushmore of wrestling, and it is so wickedly awesome to witness.

Elimination Chamber: As far as the women are concerned, this Chamber will be remembered for its titular women’s match to crown the inaugural women’s tag team champions. I really liked this match! I was nervous to see how a tag match (ironically with no tagging) would work inside of a Chamber, but was pleasantly surprised to see how these women orchestrated the match.

The sequence toward the middle of the match where each woman successively hit a power move on the next standing woman was incredible and clever. The IIconics were surprising stars of this match, scoring a quick pinfall on Naomi and brutalizing the likes of Sasha Banks and Bayley within the confines. Many fans’ pick to win, I truly hope the IIconics win the tag belts one day, as they are probably the truest partnership in the entire women’s division, and they are steadily improving in the ring.

Image credit: twm.news

The Riott Squad as well deserve a shout, for those stellar crossbodies from the top of a pod and Liv Morgan’s big bump before her team’s elimination. I think their team name finally clicked for me in this match, in that these women are high-risk and chaotic in the ring, rarely showing fear in the face of stacked odds.

The right team won, with great storytelling to boot. Sasha and Bayley showed compassion for one another that is required for a believable tag team duo. I loved the parallelism of this year and last year’s Chamber, the latter of which saw Sasha infamously kick Bayley down when she was trying to meet Sasha at the top of a pod. Sasha, in the same position, helped her partner up the pod this year, showing some character growth for The Boss.

There is more that I could say, but I thought this match was booked well and made this new division look strong heading into WrestleMania.

The Bad

Image credit: diva-dirt.com

RAW and Smackdown Live: I can’t recall too many bad things happening for women on weekly TV, but I suppose two booking decisions have irked me over the last several weeks. Head and shoulders above everything is what has been going on between Mandy Rose and Naomi. Where did this feud come from? It appeared on Smackdown one week out of thin air, and since then it’s just been a persistent part of each woman’s every move on TV. The most frustrating thing about it is that for the majority of the feud, Mandy has been coming out on top, even when it doesn’t make sense. With the exception of last night at Elimination Chamber, Mandy always gets the better of Naomi. And even when Naomi does one-up Mandy, such as at the Royal Rumble, Mandy almost immediately squashes Naomi’s momentum. I understand wanting to push someone, but there must be balance, so that we don’t effectively bury someone who is a former women’s champion in the process.

Another bothersome booking decision is how WWE decided to determine the teams in the tag title Chmaber match. While the women on RAW had to qualify, the Smackdown women were simply announced as entrants. This shows such sloppiness and exposes just how unbalanced each roster’s divisions are. They likely did this out of necessity, since there are far fewer women on Smackdown. But, I firmly believe that there should be some consistency and equity between the brands for logic’s sake. But, because everything worked out with the Chamber match, I am willing to forgive this.

Elimination Chamber: I’ll address my more serious concerns stemming from Elimination Chamber below, but the bad from last night was simply the booking for the RAW women’s title match. Poor Ruby Riott! Getting almost no offense in, Ruby Riott lost to Ronda Rousey in a squash lasting only a couple of minutes. I hate when WWE does this, making it apparent that certain wrestlers will only serve as non-playable characters within a main character’s story arc. It’s sad, and there’s just no other way to put it. Ruby Riott deserves some respect on her name. Perhaps she’ll get it when Ronda is out of the picture.

The Thorny
As I alluded to above, the segment that took place after Ruby’s squash to Ronda is what I’d like to discuss in this section. I won’t describe what happened here, because there isn’t much to detail, but if you have not seen it, I recommend watching that first before reading this. In short, I don’t think this angle did Becky any favors after last week’s RAW, and I’ll explain why.

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

To start off, there is the technicality of Becky’s presence at the pay-per-view in the first place. How and why did Becky make it to the arena?! I discussed above that I did not have issues with Becky’s suspension by Mr. McMahon. Along with everything else, I felt this would be a great way to get fans to sympathize with Becky and most importantly, keep her off TV for a while. Doing this would have either tricked fans into believing that Becky was truly out of the main event, or make fans crave Becky’s presence the longer she was away. In both situations, fans would remain hot on Becky and she would keep her momentum.

However, why suspend Becky at all if she can just show up at TV tapings, live events, and pay-per-views with no problem? This combined with Mr. McMahon taking her out of the main event has me questioning the legitimacy of WWE’s kayfabe rules. What is the point of WWE canon if at any time authority figures and wrestlers alike can simply disregard it?

Why is there a Royal Rumble match if Mr. McMahon can simply show up one week and decide he doesn’t like the wrestler who earned their title opportunity, and take it away from them?

Why are wrestlers suspended if they clearly can violate their suspensions with impunity?

I have a problem with WWE bending their own rules to fit a storyline. It makes the product feel inauthentic. And I know that as wrestling fans we are regularly expected to suspend our disbelief to enjoy it. But how much disbelief can we suspend in order to find plausibility in a suspended Becky hobbling into a venue, through a crowd, and into a WWE ring without encountering any barriers to entry? It’s ridiculous!

Related to this logical fallacy is how the segment was addressed by WWE personnel, namely the announcers and security. On the one hand, you had Michael Cole and Corey Graves selling what Becky did as barbaric and even arrest-worthy, despite many male wrestlers (and even Charlotte!) doing far worse without such comments. Hell, we’ve had Brock Lesnar intentionally bust open Randy Orton without commentary scolding him the same way they did Becky.

But, at the same time, security somehow incompetently allowed Becky to make it into the ring to assault Charlotte and Ronda for minutes without interception. And then, once they arrived to intervene, they simply escorted Becky to the back.

To me, it seemed that in a weird way Becky’s gender limited the way this segment could be executed and sold. You had commentary berating Becky for her behavior like a rebellious schoolgirl, but you also had men being hesitant with handling or stopping Becky, almost as if they didn’t take her as a serious threat to people’s safety. In this way, there was unconscious bias at play, and it made the segment come off as forced in my opinion.

I believe that having Becky on TV throughout her suspension is the wrong choice, as it runs the risk of burning the fans out on her. But, if they are going to do it, WWE must be careful not to take shortcuts within their own canon to get from Point A to Point B. Becky is not too big to fall, and in WWE’s venture to make her the next Stone Cold, I hope they do not snuff out the magic that Rebecca Quin has created with her character.

***

I’ll be back again after Fastlane, hopefully with some new feuds to get excited about!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: The Year of the Woman (Year In Review, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

While it’s a bit corny to say, there really isn’t a better time to be a fan of women’s wrestling in WWE. Through the ups and the downs, this year was truly unforgettable for the division and fans who have been clamoring for women’s progressivism since the Attitude Era.

Sure, there are some kinks to work out here and there, as is to be expected when exploring uncharted historical territory. But, the year was a start. It is only the beginning. I truly see it as a new foundation for what is yet to come. With the announcement that there will be women’s tag team championships unveiled next year and speculation that we may see women main event WrestleMania for the first time, 2019 will likely be a sophomore year of sorts — a punctuation mark on the statement that women’s wrestling is here to stay.

Let’s look back n the year that got us to this point. As this is more of a celebratory post from my perspective, let’s do things in reverse this time. We can revisit cynicism next year.

The Thorny

Image credit: EWrestling.com

Catty Characterizations. An underlying issue in the women’s division has always been the way WWE’s female characters are written. This year was no different, as we had many of the most memorable feuds of the year carried by bratty, mean girl antics from heels and faces alike. An example that leaps to mind is the feud between Nikki Bella and Ronda Rousey before Evolution.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tuv7-uVgdJ0&w=560&h=315]

Ronda cut a searing promo wherein she mocked the Bellas for using their men to get ahead, and specifically Nikki for sleeping with John Cena. In addition to that dose of slut-shaming, we had Alexa Bliss bullying Nia Jax for no reason, Ruby Riott mocking Natalya’s actually-dead father, and Carmella being the ditzy, obnoxious heel of our nightmares.

Not only that, but the women were also generally depicted as volatile and shrill. I can’t even count the amount of segments we had this year of women screaming into microphones, over each other backstage, or in cringe-worthy counseling sessions. Again, this is how you can tell that there are few if any female writers backstage. Women were portrayed by how patriarchy caricatures them — as shrieking, hysterical creatures. I hope that WWE learns how to write women next year with realistic motivations, now that they will have to do it for more of them with a growing roster. Speaking of…

The Favorites. A general critique but particularly with the women, WWE has a tendency to rotate the same 5 or 6 women in and out of the title picture on both brands. And it is no surprise that most of these women are blonde and white. The year was dominated by Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Becky Lynch. While other women had their “moments” this year — like Asuka winning the Rumble and Naomi winning the already-forgotten WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal — they were fleeting in comparison to the title runs and feuds that the aforementioned women had.

Image credit: slam.canoe.com

The women’s locker room is the most diverse it has ever been, and yet we continue to give the same “kind” of women the top spots. It’s infuriating to watch the most prominent wrestling critics praise people like Charlotte and Ronda when women like them are given the big matches continually to prove themselves and show off their movesets. We saw the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, and Asuka sink to the bottom of the card simply because they didn’t fit the mold.

It’s great that the women will finally be given another set of titles to strive for. This may address this issue head-on. Yet, it won’t fix much if the tag titles are only used to pacify the women who can’t seem to break into the “main event” scene.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Short-Term Booking. We saw so much short-term booking this year. Segments that served little purpose other than to get another women’s segment on RAW or SmackDown Live. As I alluded to in the previous section, the rest of the women’s locker room in the undercard had to make do with the segments or actions written for them. And many of them were…bad. Just bad. And also random.

Image credit: theringreport.com

Asuka and Naomi teamed up for a few weeks and then suddenly stopped. Dana Brooke turned face and then heel again two days later with no explanation. Asuka lost not one but two title matches to Carmella because of nonsensical distractions by James Ellsworth. Sasha and Bayley betrayed one another multiple times this year to simply pretend none of their bickering ever happened after a counseling session. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville fell victim to similar booking.

And in all of these examples, there was absolutely no long-term explanation for the events. No reasons given for the temporary alliances and breakups. It was all pure laziness on the part of WWE Creative. And I know it isn’t the worst thing going on, but it’s still irksome. I want to care! Make me care!

The Good

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Every Single First. I hope wrestling historians took note of just how many firsts there were this year. All of the historic firsts could be written about at length, but I’m condensing them in this point because in total there were just too many.

In case you need a recap, we had the first ever women’s:

  • Royal Rumble
  • Elimination Chamber match
  • announcers: full-time for Renee Young and a guest spot for Beth Phoenix
  • pay-per-view, Evolution
  • Last Woman Standing Match (on the main roster)
  • TLC match

…all within a 12-month period!! That’s insane!

We also had the third women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, which was the best of them so far. Every single one of these matches delivered. Not a single one was bad. We saw what happens when you give women the ball. They don’t just run with it, they shoot and score. And, arguably, they made the men step their game up to deliver high match quality. I know that every subsequent stipulation match listed above won’t be as amazing as the first. But, the women have their foot in the door now, and I have high hopes that they will find ways to be inventive and heighten the intensity of each as the years go on.

The Royal Rumble and Evolution. Yes, I am singling out these two events — because they were that damn good. I still remember vividly watching in utter excitement and pride as Jojo announced the start of the women’s Rumble. I will never forget how hyped I was standing in front of my TV, singing every woman’s entrance theme I knew as they walked the ramp for the Evolution battle royal. I actually got chills just thinking back to those nights. I was never, ever prouder to be a fan of wrestling — a fan of women’s wrestling — than on those nights, watching those pay-per-views.

Image credit: alexablissfrance.tumblr.com

And it wasn’t just because they were firsts. That will obviously play into the fondness that fans hold for those events when we remember back to this era. But these events will also stand out because they lived up to their hype. The women wrestled and entertained as if everything was on the line. In many ways, it was. They had everything to prove, just because they’re women; ’tis the sexism that they face just for existing in wrestling to begin with.

You can read my extended thoughts on both shows in my previous blog posts, but I would also recommend seeking out each of them to watch, because they are absolutely worth your time.

Stone Cold Becky Lynch. Yeah, I went there. There wasn’t a wrestler in WWE this year that could hold a candle to Becky Lynch. Not Seth Rollins or Drew McIntyre. Not AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan. Not even Ronda Rousey. It was all Becky. Period.

Becky proved herself to be a bonafide star this year. She balanced actual in-ring talent with stellar mic skills, and crafted a heel character that was just too cool to boo. She was so over that she had fans jeering the likes of Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey, the two golden girls of the division. WWE tried their hardest to make Becky a detestable heel, but Becky’s Stone Cold-esque rebel spirit forced them to portray her as more of an anti-hero by the end of the year, actually acknowledging that fans love her.

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Even though I have complicated feelings about the idea of “grabbing the brass ring” as Vince McMahon puts it (as it typically connotes bootstrap ideology), there are few other expressions that describe how Becky used the spotlight given to her this year. True to her character on camera and social media alike, she definitely proved herself as championship caliber.

My hope for Becky next year is that she finishes her red-hot feud with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, ideally in the main event. The match is almost guaranteed to happen — but the mechanics of how it happens I look forward to watching. I also hope that we see Becky’s versatility after WrestleMania, giving her new opponents to feud with.

Regardless of the future, 2018 will be remembered as The Man’s year. How ironic, during a year that will likely go down in history as the Year of the Woman.

***

And that’s all folks! It’s been a delight to write about women’s wrestling this year. I began it with the Royal Rumble, innocently believing that the women wouldn’t be given anything else for the remainder of the year. I have never been so happy to be wrong.

See you on the Road to WrestleMania!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (October 15, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: Forbes.com

Greetings and salutations good wrestling fans. I can’t believe this will be the last post before Evolution. It is mind-boggling how fast this year is going, and how quickly this “monumental” pay-per-view is approaching. I’m not sure WWE knows this either…hm. Let’s talk a bit about that, shall we?

The Good
Before I become too critical about the lackluster build to Evolution, I would like to take time in this section to discuss one positive: the sheer number of women’s segments on Raw and Smackdown Live over the last several weeks. I’m talking upwards of two to three segments some weeks.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube channel

Nia and Ember wrestling, the Riott Squad continuing to be prominent figures week on week, Bayley and Alicia Fox getting visibility — I’ve found myself actually raising an eyebrow to this increase in segments for the women as I watch every week. Outside of that being pathetic, as this should be the norm, it did give me hope. It does show that WWE can give their female roster attention when they try. Which makes it more obvious that when they don’t, it is a conscious decision.

The Bad
However, now that we are getting to see more female faces on our screens every week, we now get to see WWE’s weaknesses when it comes to female storytelling. Or, more specifically, their inability to focus energy toward multiple storylines at one time.

A well-documented gripe in Nylons, it never ceases to amaze me how the writing teams at WWE can so consistently drop the ball with developing female characters. While I am very happy to see more women onscreen on weekly TV, I scratch my head at the material they are given to work with. Or, the randomness of the matchups they are thrown into.

For example, why are Bayley and Alicia Fox in some sort of feud now? Do they have history? Why don’t they like each other? Were they just arbitrarily made to wrestle each other multiple times on TV because the Mixed Match Challenge needs promoting?

Another example: Asuka and Naomi versus the IIconics. Is there a pinpoint-able reason that the IIconics chose Asuka and Naomi to feud with?

And overarching all of these “rivalries” is the question: why do these women keep facing the same people week after week with no tangible payoff or storyline progression? Matches have to mean something. If people just wrestled every week and then went home, WWE wouldn’t be where it is today, and we certainly would not love it as much as we do. It seems that many of the women on the roster are just wrestling in circles, not getting anywhere.

Also, I’ve had little chance to talk about this in other posts, but it bears mentioning. WWE’s ineptitude with women’s storytelling is also evident with the sudden heel or face turns of certain women in the undercard. Two women that come to mind are Nia Jax and Carmella. Nia was a face in her feud with Alexa Bliss up until WrestleMania, then some sort of tweener in her feud with Ronda Rousey, then she lost the title and was MIA for a bit, and now she’s back on Raw as a…face? Is there a reason why she can’t definitively be one or the other? Carmella is an even stranger case. She was one of the most effective heels on the roster as Snackdown Women’s Champion, but then lost the title, dyed her hair auburn, and is now face in a partnership with R-Truth. (Again, an MMC pairing being brought to weekly TV.)

Image credit: SEScoops.com

When wrestlers are flip flopped between good or bad with no explanation, it robs fans the opportunity to sympathize with their characters. We are not allowed time to understand their motivations, or what drives their characters to good or bad. This is Character Building 101, and it helps audiences care. I desperately want to care about so many of the women in WWE, but to do that I have to be given something to sink my teeth into. I can’t be left salivating without a plate.

The Thorny
We are now only two weeks away from Evolution. We currently have three matches that have been announced (excluding the matches for the NXT women’s title and Mae Young Classic final). This is, to my knowledge, going to be a full-length pay-per-view. The matches that have been announced so far encompass all of the rumored matches and competitors set to headline the pay-per-view in marquee matches: Nikki Bella vs. Ronda Rousey, Trish Stratus and Lita versus Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte in a Last Woman Standing Match. I’m excited for two of the three of those matches, but more nervous for what the rest of the card will look like. We are down to the wire, folks. If people are going to invest money into buying this pay-per-view, they need to know what their money is buying.

Image credit: skysports.com

What I am getting at here is the idea that certain women are allowed to take up space before others. Some women are allowed to simply take up more space than others.

A good example to illustrate this is the Charlotte/Becky feud. I love the way this feud is unfolding, the work that both women are doing, and how important the women’s title feels on Smackdown Live. Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how vapid the rest of the division feels in comparison. It seems that Creative is pouring all of its ideas into this single feud.

This phenomenon is reminiscent of the Charlotte/Sasha Banks feud that dominated 2016. That feud will undoubtedly go down as one of the best in history, but it also seemed to suck the life out of the division. I cannot recall a single other women’s feud that was happening in the midst of Charlotte and Sasha swapping the gold. I don’t find it coincidental that the common denominator in both feuds is a certain blonde Nature Girl.

It is unfortunate that we’re seeing who WWE will leave behind in the process of putting over the most marketable women. With just 13 days to build the majority of the show, where do the Nias, Embers, and Asukas stand? I want to feel anticipation for this pay-per-view, but despite what WWE tries to convince us, a show is not made by mainstream stars and nostalgia acts. We want wrestling. As a fan, I beg that WWE gives us that.

***

WWE has a knack for surprising us with memorable moments when we least expect them. I am hoping that the secrecy about the rest of the card means that they have something special in store for Evolution. My next post will give you all the blow by blow on the show. Until then!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (October 1, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: WrestleTalk.com

Greetings good wrestling fans. I hope some autumn leaves have blessed your front lawns by this point! Fall is by far my favorite season of the year, and as far as wrestling goes, it brings us closer to 2019 and the illusion of new beginnings for WWE.

With Evolution looming, how are they rounding out the year? Not as promising as I would hope…

The Good
I am going to try something new and find a potential positive in something I’d previously discussed as problematic. In past editions of Nylons, I have said that WWE’s arbitrary creation of tag teams, stables, and alliances was a scapegoat strategy of getting more women on screen with less individual storyline development. While I still believe that to be true, there may be a method to the madness.

I specifically have the team of Asuka and Naomi in mind. Let me first say that not utilizing these women as singles competitors is a crime unto itself. Asuka had a years-long undefeated streak and Naomi is a former women’s champion — their in-ring successes speak for themselves. Their backstage segments have been forced and unfunny at best, and they still aren’t given the time in the ring that they should.

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

But…for some odd reason, I kind of dig the pair of them together. Both women have indescribable auras that make them stand out in the ring and the entrance ramp. Their wrestling styles aren’t actually that different from one another either, with both Superstars making the most of their legs with dangerous kicks. Perhaps both women could elevate each other and re-legitimize themselves as serious competitors? Even better than that, WWE could eventually put them in contention for the yet-to-be-confirmed women’s tag team belts. All of the female pairings on WWE TV can’t just be for show; they must serve a long-term purpose — at least that’s my hope. Which leads me to…

The Bad
The bad this week is that I have no idea what WWE’s long term plans are for most of the women on the roster. Evolution is less than a month away, and outside of a handful of announced or heavily implied matches that will take place (Trish vs. Alexa assuming Alexa isn’t seriously injured, Lita vs. Mickie, likely Ronda vs. Nikki), fans are pretty much in the dark as far as what the rest of the card will look like.

It is not lost on me that we have heard more about the Australia and Saudi Arabia special events than Evolution. I suppose I can understand that to an extent, given that those are special events meant to appeal to very specific audiences overseas. Even still, with the start of October, the clock has already started ticking as far as storyline building for Evolution. It is truly a lost art, building carefully toward a climax of a feud; this is a general critique across the whole WWE product. But it is especially evident (and all the more crushing) when the builds must involve women.

A mere month before the first all-women’s pay-per-view and we had Bayley and Alicia Fox randomly stuck in the corners of two male Superstars for a throwaway match meant to do nothing more than promote the Mixed Match Challenge?

Image credit: WhatCulture.com

What. Is. The. Plan! Why is WWE not at least trying to pretend they care about building memorable storylines and intensely motivated female characters?

This is what I mean when I say that WWE’s feminism is just for PR. The gesture of creating the pay-per-view gets all of the cheap news coverage and applause from the folks that don’t tune in every week while the diehard fans see how indifferently WWE can sometimes treat their women the rest of the time.

The Thorny
Ah yes, the thing I’ve been itching all week to write about. Frankly, you readers are lucky that I did not write this edition of the blog immediately after last week’s Raw, because I could have written a dissertation on Brie Bella’s botch. I had several thoughts on this mishap as well as the Bellas in general, which you can read here, but I’ll try to summarize them in this post.

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

There is first the aspect of the botch itself. I feel it means everything when discussing this particular injury to Liv Morgan that we consider the performer that executed the kicks that gave Liv her concussion. Since Brie Bella has returned, she has almost landed on her head twice in the same match attempting suicide dives, stiffed Zelina Vega on Smackdown Live, executed a sloppy finish at Hell in a Cell with Maryse, and has now concussed Liv Morgan. Not to mention moments later in the same match, Brie stiffed Ruby Riott with a forearm that looked unexpected. Given all of the things that Brie has failed to do correctly in her short amount of time back on the roster, it is evident to me that comparisons cannot be made between her mess-up and say the mess-ups of performers like Seth Rollins or Sasha Banks. The latter two wrestlers are generally safe in the ring, and do not botch with nearly the frequency of Brie Bella in the last few weeks.

Fans of the Bella Twins have jumped down my and other wrestling fans’ throats for pointing out that this injury was Brie’s fault. In my opinion, intentional or not, it is absolutely the responsibility of the wrestler to be accountable for their actions. (Brie reportedly apologized numerous times to Liv backstage, but I feel the fan reaction is more important to discuss here.) We do not live in an alternate universe where if you accidentally drop someone you were carrying over a bed of coals and they hurt themselves, you try to blame the other person for being too heavy to carry or chalk it up to “well, that’s just what happens when you carry someone!”

Screenshots from Tumblr users in the aftermath of the botch.

No. You apologize and figure out where you went wrong, and how to prevent it happening in the future. Brie continually botches moves, and it is clear that she is a danger to not only herself but other people. It would behoove her to take a step back and train a little more before she does something much worse than give someone a concussion. And the same goes for every wrestler.

It is infuriating to watch fans of hers make excuses for her and imply that criticizing her is anti-feminist in some way. It could be argued that the defensiveness many fans are met with when criticizing the Bellas is a product of the brand that the sisters have built for themselves with WWE’s help. Their moneymaker is their likability, and if they lose that, both they and the McMahons lose money.

It is all a game of power, and it is clear that the Bellas are protected because of their net worth. I don’t believe any one person should hold so much power that they are above critique or being humbled by their own mistakes. I want the best for women’s wrestling, and it is regressive of WWE and fans alike to play a game of pretend for the sake of capitalistic gain.

Image should not be prioritized over safety. Feminism isn’t always about protecting women; many times it is learning how to not protect power.

***

I don’t have a witty sendoff this week. I’ll just be waiting for all of the women’s segments on RAW and SD Live to live up to the hype of Evolution.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (June 14, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs, Scholarly Wrestling Reviews

Hello, good wrestling fans!

I’m back with another entry into the Nylons and Midriffs series. Not exactly the same time as I promised in my last post, but ’tis life sometimes. Due to circumstances out of my control, this post is one week later than I hoped it would be. Therefore, this week I’ll discuss the events of the previous two weeks of RAW and Smackdown Live, not including the go-home shows to Money in the Bank. I’ll discuss those in my next post, to talk about everything MITB-related.

With that, let’s jump right in.

The Good

Image credit: WWE.com

I liked that in the weeks leading up to the go-home for MITB, the women were given more time than usual in segments and matches. We saw women receive attention that are typically disposable when it comes to airtime, like Lana, Naomi, and Mickie James. The primary exposure for them were matches rather than segments, and ones that were given at least a commercial break in the middle of them. This is great! I just want to see women wrestle!

And the wrestling was sound. While the pacing and sequence choreography could use some work, the female Superstars have the moves to carry matches. Fans also have new rivalries to daydream about — can you imagine Sonya versus Naomi, Sasha versus Ember, Charlotte versus Becky (again)?

And as one small aside in this section, Becky Lynch picked up a victory over Charlotte! While I have a lot of feelings about the pedestal that Charlotte has been put on during her time on the main roster, it is undeniable that at this point, having her put you over means something. I hope it signals a push for Becky in the future, because that woman is criminally underutilized for her wrestling ability.

The Bad
The most bothersome thread throughout the last couple of weeks has been that WWE is confused on how to make women clear-cut heels and faces. Let’s look at two examples.

The first: Nia Jax. She only just finished a triumphant, anti-bullying feud with Alexa Bliss to win the title, but now she’s in the murky area of tweener against Ronda Rousey. She used a jobber to show off her power to Ronda while cutting a very heelish promo.

Image credit: DigitalSpy.com

Then, the next week, she quasi-injured Natalya, and acts overly concerned for her to seemingly irk Ronda, who we are supposed to believe is Natalya’s actual friend. What? Is Nia the heel or the face? Being less half-assed about Nia’s characterization would really help the fans invest in this feud, because we have schemas for face v. face, heel v. face, etc. Even if it’s silly to turn Nia heel so soon after her feud with Alexa, it would be a lot better than what we’ve been given thus far.

Second: Lana. She is a part of Rusev Day, who WWE are for some reason trying to push as heels. She teased breaking Rusev and Aiden English up when she returned to TV, only to have Aiden give her an endearing song for fans to sing during her matches. When she qualified for MITB, she celebrated with Aiden like a face. But during her dance-off with Naomi, she attacked Naomi after teasing a truce with her. How does this benefit Lana?

Last: Sasha Banks and the Tale of the Never-Ending Feud. One week on RAW, we had Ember Moon, a face, tag with Sasha Banks, a…tweener(?), and Alexa Bliss, a bonafide heel. Why??? I understand that sometimes heels and faces tag together to build tension in an ongoing feud, but a) none of these women are feuding, and b) it only works if the characters are distinct and use that to play off one another. Sasha being lost somewhere between heel and face made this trio very odd.

And then, when Bayley came out to “save” the match after Alexa left to gain victory for the face team, Sasha took the win like a face. But afterwards, when Kurt Angle told the team that they lost by DQ, Sasha instantly hated Bayley again, like a heel. Who is this feud for?! Who is the face? Who is the heel? WWE is wasting some of its best and most unique talents by damning them to purgatory. No one likes you when you’re in purgatory.

The Thorny
I would be remiss in my ranting if I didn’t mention my rage at the Gauntlet Match on RAW a few weeks ago. The announcers spent the whole night touting the match, spewing “historic” and other hyperboles into our ears. And it was all well and good, until we entered the third hour and there was still no match. We got to half an hour before the end of the show, still no match. We got a damned comedy segment about barbecue before we got that Gauntlet Match.

WWE insulted our intelligence by assuming we’d forgotten that the men’s gauntlet match from several weeks before lasted nearly two-thirds of the show. The women’s Gauntlet started at 9:43pm, Central Daylight Time. Twenty minutes. Less than twenty minutes. A match with seven participants, one of which who was in her hometown. This is disgraceful and unacceptable.

Photo cred: CagesideSeats.com

I am glad that we have reached the point of doing. Yes, we now allow women into previously uncharted territory. Now we need to work on the execution, and I don’t mean on the part of the wrestlers. On the part of Creative, producers, and decision-makers in WWE. They need to advocate for women to get the exposure they deserve.

We cannot tout women’s liberation if we are going to only allow women to shine as long as the men shine brighter. That is “women’s empowerment” that fits politely within the patriarchy. If WWE really wants its women to transcend the shortcomings of the past, the company needs to execute the booking of their women’s division in a more audacious way. They deserve to take up space.

***

Through and through, I’m still amped for MITB. My thoughts on the go-home shows are mostly positive in terms of the female Superstars, so hopefully the pay-per-view itself delivers some satisfying results.

Until next time, stay legit bossy,
AC